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Want to make a Big impact? Think Small

I am used to approaching Purpose and Social Good as high-level topics involving a struggle for human rights, equality and inclusion. Looking at a handful of beautiful flowers my neighbor just gave me, I find it refreshing to realize significant social impact can be achieved with ordinary actions in daily life, too.

Here’s me on a Monday morning carefully rearranging the last beautiful flowers from a lush bouquet into a small vase. It is almost a meditative moment – I think nature should be treated with awe and respect, even if it’s in my living room – and totally worth the ten peaceful minutes spent on it.

Pieces of a puzzle

My next-door neighbor unexpectedly gave me the luxury bouquet two weeks ago. Working with vast topics such as “Purpose” and “Social Good” at the level of organizations and society, I realize that creating positive impact can also be a small daily act.

It’s not always easy to start from zero. After eight happy years in Colombia I recently arrived to create a new life on my own for me and my 12-year-old in a Dutch city I hardly know. Even though it’s my home country, figuring out all the pieces of that puzzle is challenging.

I met my neighbor one evening when I just got back. Sitting on the stairs before my apartment with a solitary glass of wine, I was thinking about the turbulent Latin American life I had just left behind and all the question marks that awaited me now. He came out for an evening walk with his teenage daughter. We chatted a while about his step-counting app, the damage created by the pandemic in Colombia, and local garbage pickup hours.

A day late

A week later when he heard me taking out my bike, he opened his front door and handed me the bouquet. “Sorry I’m a day late,” he said with a smile. My mouth fell open and I felt my eyes filling up with tears. A day late?? “How did you even know it was my birthday?” I asked.

“Oh well,” he said, “That wasn’t difficult to find out with all that paperwork we’re dealing with,” referring to the recent email exchanges with other members of our small owner’s association. Boring stuff about renovations and bricks and local construction regulations.

Social impact starts small

Thank you so much, dear neighbor! I felt so welcomed. At any other point in time this might have been just a nice gesture. But at that moment it meant the world to me. Two weeks later, my neighbor’s flowers still make me smile, evoking that feeling of belonging I so need right now.

It’s refreshing to realize that creating social good is not just about promoting human rights and advocating for just and equal societies. It’s also about the things you and I can do as neighbors, community members or colleagues to make others feel included and appreciated.